We’re women, we’re from the city and we love our balmy summers—but we can take on frozen Lake Simcoe on a frigid February morning to catch fish like nobody’s business.
Okay, maybe that’s hyperbole.
The four of us may not earn a spot in the Ontario ice fishing hall of fame if there was one, but we did prove the sport isn’t—and shouldn’t be—the sole (pun intended) domain of the burly, rugged men of the Great White North.
Bonnie Boats is an ice fishing outfitter and marina in Jackson’s Point, and owner Scott Davidson will tell you 10% of his customers are women.
Ladies, ladies. While that’s a good start, we can do better than that, can’t we?
If you’re intimidated, don’t be. Bonnie Boats is a one-stop shop that will help you get set up as an angler in no time. If four ice fishing novices from the city like ourselves can do it, you can too.
Your own fishing tackle isn’t required but you’ll need to purchase an Ontario fishing licence for the day either online in advance or upon arrival at the marina. Pack a lunch, your favourite beverages, well-gripped mitts and/or rubber gloves, plastic bags to store your catch and toilet paper for restroom breaks. Then leave it to Bonnie Boats to take care of the rest.
It’s really that simple.
And, if you’re looking to make your ice fishing experience a weekend affair, The Briars Resort, a heritage lakeside property, is ideally located near the Bonnie Boats marina. Give the front desk staff a day’s notice and they’ll greet you the following morning with a packed lunch for your ice fishing adventure. How’s that for service?
Don’t forget to arrange your pick-up service from The Briars in advance because you won’t want to miss your ride in this snowmobile on steroids.
After the five-minute ride you’ll arrive at the marina, where you’ll collect your equipment before speeding across Lake Simcoe to your heated hut (you didn’t think they’d let you freeze out there, did you?).
And let’s address one important matter because, of course, you want to know: For those times when nature calls, not to worry. An outhouse will be nearby when the need arises.
Your fishing bait will be live minnows. If hooking the slippery suckers makes you queasy, do what I did: Pass the responsibility off to your less squeamish friend.
Then sit back for a few hours, unwind, crack open a bottled drink and catch up with your friends while you can because the relaxed vibe will quickly make way for excitement when one of you feels the tug of your first fish on the line! Maybe it will be trout, maybe white fish but, on Lake Simcoe, chances are it will be perch.
And perch is what we caught. It was a little thing… but it was something!
Here’s the best part if you’re a guest of The Briars: after a day of ice fishing, you can return to the resort with your prized catch, where the chef will gladly clean and prepare it for your eating pleasure. Can a seafood meal get any fresher or more local than that?
At minimum, we wanted to experience the thrill of catching our very own fish—however big or small—and we’re proud to say we did exactly that. Our perch may not have been large enough for consumption, but we emerged from our hut with at least one small success.
Why limit a winter girl’s getaway to mani-pedis, downward dogs and cosmopolitans when you can step outside your urban element to try something new and—equally important—quintessentially Canadian?
You may not give the ice fishing pros a run for their money, but one thing’s for sure: it will be time well spent with friends in the winter outdoors and the opportunity to prove why “fisherwoman” exists as a word in the English lexicon.
Click below for a video of all the action, featuring Vanessa (Turnipseed Travel), Sharon (Dream Travel Magazine) and Mary (Calculated Traveller).
Helen Suk is a Toronto-based travel writer and photographer. You can read more about her travels on her blog, Not Without My Passport. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.